I stole an evening, took the train to London and joined The School of Life at Fenton House, Hampstead, for evening drinks in the orchard with Esther Freud. We were there to celebrate midsummer and Tove Jansson.
The evening was warm and informal – cotton skirts and big boots, smiles and mercifully little small talk. We drank Finnish vodka with apple juice and fresh mint and sat on the just damp grass.
Esther Freud chatted to us about her visit to the summer house where Tove Jansson wrote The Summer Book. She described the small black stove, the scrubbed wooden floor, the blue window, the gnarled forest of low trees and dark pools. She also took us to the barren island where Tove Jansson and her partner Tuulikki escaped visitors to be together in a simple, square wooden house on a bit of black rock, beneath the shrieking terns – just day beds, time for each other and the daily routine and small challenges of swimming around the island, reading, writing and thinking. Lovely.
I met a teacher with red hair and warm hands and sat on the edge of her coat. We talked about accidental planting, foxgloves, safe places, the smell of autumn and clogs. She said that she had always encouraged her daughters to go out in all seasons for the simple pleasure of coming home to climb under a blanket together.
We walked paths mown between grass left to grow feathery. There were beds of gentle chaos – digitalis, allium, blue iris, rosa rugosa, sage, philladephus, white campanula and purple poppies. And a green house with trays of lupin seedlings.
I left feeling a little bit more in love with life and with an appetite for the simple pleasure of tentative sunshine, friendship, imagination, curiosity and authenticity that had been offered to us.
Posted by Louisa Thomsen Brits on 19 June 2012